This building has invited tales ever since I can remember. Rumoured to be built on an old Chinese morgue, the "Labour Lyceum" (as it was originally known) was bought in the 1970s by a large Hong Kong company to be run as a local restaurant. Business was bad and never improved over the years and soon, even though major renovations were completed, the restaurant shut it's doors.
Believed cursed as well as haunted, the restaurant remained closed for many years; however, before giving up, the company had a traditional Chinese exorcist called in and pointed out that the two billboards directly across the street pointed like an arrowhead directly at the restaurant which allowed a natural flow of evil spirits easy access to the building. On his advice, the front entrance was moved around the corner and two lion-like fu chu dogs now guard the original entrance. The incursion of new spirits then stopped, leaving only what was already there... an apparition of a man seen occasionally in the women's washroom and there were still reports of poltergeist activity in the restaurant.
The building is now home to several merchants, and on a recent visit, a girlfriend of mine picked up several pieces of women's apparel with no ill fortune to speak of to date.
UPDATE: The following has been added by one of our readers...
I am also familiar with the 'hauntings' of this building. My dad told me that the restaurant owners also had many mirrors put up in the interior of the building as a way to keep out unwanted spirits.
Also, another note on mirrors and the 'chinese belief'. If you walk around an old chinese neighbourhood, ie; Dundas and Spadina, Gerrard and Broadview, you will notice some of the homes have a red painted 'board' with a little mirror inside, or a red painted board with chinese writing. The homeowners usually put these up because their home was haunted and this 'board' is supposed to keep out evil spirits.
I tried them with my apartment and it didn't work (I just sent a brief e-mail on my haunting). Perhaps these boards didn't work in my apartment because the beings were not completely gone, I don't know).
Anyway, the next time you're in the above areas, look around at the homes and you will be sure to see quite a few of them....makes you wonder, doesn't it?
Reader Update - July 2002: The following was sent in by one of our readers...
Hi, I was reading through your stories, and I wanted to let you know about an experience of my own in this particular location. All I can say is that the story is true, and there are no explanations to what I have seen.
I often ate Dim Sum at the Old Hsin Kung Restaurant. I was 16 at the time when this happened (I think 1992,) the restaurant still had both of the floors open for business. The new owners only have the first floor open for business now, they seem to have it blocked off or something. In the restaurant at that time, ninety per-cent of the walls were covered by mirrors and the ceiling was covered by dragons to ward off the spirits.
This one time when I was having dim sum with my parents and grandmother, I needed to go to the washroom really bad. My grandmother said that the second floor washrooms were "not very clean".
At first I didn't know what she meant, I thought she meant that the washroom upstairs is just dirty and nothing more. Anyway, I went to first floor washroom and there was a line up and I couldn't wait, so I quickly went up stairs to the second floor and used the men's washroom.
I went in and looked after my business, washed my hands, and as just I was leaving the washroom, I heard someone say "hey you".
I found that strange cause I was the only person in the washroom to my knowledge.
What made my hair stand up was when I realized it was a female voice. Being curious (and my hormones still raving on which may have some bearing on things,) turned around and looked.
I couldn't believe what I saw. The next thing I knew, I was bolting down the stairs back to the first floor with other patrons of the restaurant looking at me.
What I saw was a Asian female with long hair hovering in mid air at the far back wall, wearing a red dress.
When I got back to our table, I quickly blurted out what I saw to my family so loudly that all the other patrons could hear me. We decided to get the bill and leave.
My grandmother then gave me this yellow paper with weird Chinese writing on it, and told me to swallow it. I asked why, she just said do it or die. I swallowed it. My grandmother gave each of my parents one, and they did the same.
I was told later, that it was a evil spirit that wanted to collect another soul, and I happened to be one that just walked in.
The following week, I believe that I read in the newspaper that an man had a heart attack in the second washroom while he was using the facilities. I cant remember the date or the nationality of the person.
After seeing what I saw, I am now a believer.
Update January 2008
The following was sent in by one of our readers:
My dad use to be one of the owners of the old Hsin Kuang Restaurant, and I practically grew up at that place up until it closed down. I can confirm that prior to being Hsin Kuang, the building was an old Chinese morgue / funeral home, and than it was later turned into a Mongolian hot-pot restaurant. When Hsin Kuang bought the building in 1984, the Mongolian restaurant was already closed; however, in the basement, there was an old tavern that was still open. The tavern's entrance was on the St. Andrew side of the street. Hsin Kuang rebuilt the whole building and the tavern in the basement moved out. At that time Hsin Kuang occupied 3 floors including the basement. Even before Hsin Kuang opened its doors, we were told that there were a lot of paranormal activities in the building, especially in the basement tavern.
The owners did consult with Fung Shui masters with specific alterations to the design of the interior and the outside. The pair of lions had been outside the Spadina entrance ever since the beginning (and yes, it was for Fung Shui purposes). Contrary to what people thought, the main entrance was actually the door facing St. Andrew St. The restaurant was never cursed and it actually did very well for a number of years. The downtown Hsin Kuang was the flag ship, and the owners later opened one in Scarborough, one in King St. theater district and one in China City in Mississauga. The corporation later went public and the downfall was due to mismanagement at the Hong Kong headquarters.
As for paranormal activities. I have never personally encountered any; however, I always feel uncomfortable down in the basement level and the area near the 2nd floor washrooms. I have however heard of a few incidents from the staff of the restaurant.
My brother, who was working at the restaurant at that time was invited to a banquet which was held in the basement. He went to the basement washroom and when he finished his business, he proceeded to wash his hands at the sink. The mirror above the sink reflects off of the two cubicles located across. At that time the doors were closed; however, from the corner of his eyes he saw something black skimming across the top of the cubicles. My brother looked up, and saw a naked child crouched, jumping back and forth between the two cubicles (between the partition that separates the two cubicles). He specifically remembers that the child was laughing like he was having fun, but cannot hear any sound. Needless to say, my brother rushed out in a hurry.
The second was from a female cashier of the restaurant. The second floor washroom is actually located at the annex of the restaurant. When you were on the second floor dinning area, you actually had to walk up a narrow staircase to get to the landing where the washrooms are. Behind these washrooms is actually where the office and staff change rooms are located; hence a lot of staff uses the two washrooms there before or after their shifts. It was said that the female cashier had just gotten off her shift and was getting ready to leave. She stopped by to use the washroom before she went to the change room. She sat down on one of the toilets and was doing her business when she felt a tingling sensation on the back of her neck. She thought it was a draft or maybe even a bug, so she brushed it off and continued her business. A few seconds later, she felt it again, but it was a very cold feeling, and it felt very physical. She turned around and saw that there was a very pale hand sticking out of the wall right above the toilet tank. She got so scared she fell forward and was trying to unlock the door to get out. Like any other good horror flick, she had a hard time opening the lock, and more of the hand started showing up. By the time she unlocked the door and crawled out to the sink area to help herself up, she saw a Chinese woman with long black hair in a red dress floating out of the wall (I wonder if it was the same spirit that one of the posters wrote about). She was expressionless and seemed like she was floating towards the cashier. The cashier ran out of there (with her skirt down) and bolted down the restaurant. She never came back to work after that, and she told this to another cashier who visited her at her home to find out what had happened.
The third incident happened when one of the senior managers had realized he had forgotten something very important at the restaurant after a night out. By the time he got to the restaurant it was close to 3:00am. He unlocked the shutter and immediately heard noise from within the restaurant. He described it as sounding like a big party. He thought someone had broke in and decided to proceed cautiously. He unlocked the glass doors and went inside, and the whole time he still heard the voices / noises. The lights were off with the exception of a few inside the dinning area on the ground floor; however, he quickly realized that the noises came from the basement.
The staircase going down the basement was actually sort of like a spiral staircase and you can't really see what was happening down there. He saw that the lights were on and that it sounded like there was a big party down in the basement with clanking of glasses and cheers and footsteps. He yelled down the stairs to see if someone would reply (he now thinks that it was likely to be another manager who was having an unauthorized party at the restaurant). All the noise stopped and it got very quiet.
He went down thinking that he will see one of his colleagues all drunk; however, when he reached the bottom there were not a single person in the dinning area. The lights were on, the chairs were everywhere, and the table settings (they usually set the table for dim sum service the night before) were all messed up. He got so scared and quickly went back upstairs. He closed the glass door and locked the shutter behind him and went home.
Ever since Hsin Kuang closed down, I have not heard anything from there since. However, I know that it is very known in the Chinese community that the restaurant is haunted because every time a friend of mine realizes that my dad was one of the owners of the restaurant, they will always ask me if it is true that the restaurant is haunted. As I said, I've never encountered anything there; however, I have no reason to think that the eye witness accounts above were made up."
Our thanks to our reader for sharing this with us.